Hello lovely readers!
Right on the heels of Rise of the Machines: The Lost History of Cybernetics, I decided to read the book Thomas Rid actually released first: Cyber War Will Not Take Place. I know, I know, it’s a back-asswards way of approaching something but by the time I remembered I actually had the first book, I was already partway through the second and I wasn’t prepared to switch at that point.
In saying that, both of these books can be read stand-alone; like a lot of non-fiction, this isn’t a series as such. And to be honest, I actually felt better-prepared for this book having already read about the history of cybernetics, and in fact some of the history of the modern Internet and what we now call cyberspace.
This is a really, really good book. I don’t necessarily agree with the title (and thus the overall argument, awkwardly), but this book is incredibly well-research, very well-articulated, and something I now consider a primary reference text for my thesis. Now, how did I get to that conclusion when I don’t even agree with the primary argument of the book? Quite simply, because the information that this book offers and the analysis that Rid has performed is impeccable. This is scholarship of the best kind, because it is easy to digest, makes perfect sense and educates you with every line.
The book is structured by concept rather than timeline, which is different to Rise of the Machines. However, given the topics that this book deals with that makes perfect sense, and was an excellent decision on the author’s part. Nothing can ruin good research quite so spectacularly as atrocious structure and presentation.
There are eight chapters of this book, presented in the following order:
- What is cyber war?
- Cyber Weapons
- Beyond Cyber War
There is a logical and coherent structure here, easing the reader into the cyber warfare discussion by introducing the key concepts at play in the cyberspace debate, before breaking down what we have actually seen of ‘cyber war’: cyber sabotage, cyber espionage, and cyber subversion. Devoting a chapter to the attribution problem was an excellent decision, because it really is (in my opinion) one of the thorniest of problems in most debates over the relative security or insecurity of cyberspace: whodunnit? In this I agree with Rid, attribution might not actually be quite as difficult to pinpoint as is generally thought, but it is very much a political problem as to whether you’re going to openly accuse someone of being the guilty party.
Completely outside of whether you are involved in the academic fields that have an interest in cyberspace, this is a really good book if you’re intrigued by just what is meant by cyberspace and cyber warfare. If you’re wondering what all the politicians and military leaders and activists and hacktivists are cracking on about, this is a good book to start with. If you are involved in the academic OR practical fields with an interest or stake in cyberspace, you 100% need to read this book, and read it properly. You don’t need to agree with all the points made in a book to acknowledge that it has a high degree of utility and relevance in a given field.
This is relevant, and useful. Five star read, people.